Q. An old house I'm working on has too few wall outlets to meet code. What are the rules for spacing and positioning of new outlets? Can I place them in the baseboard trim? And do some of them also have to be switch controlled?
A. Master Electrician Rex Cauldwell responds: Most old houses have too few receptacles to meet current code requirements. Any wall section 2 feet wide or wider requires a receptacle, and every point along any wall must be within 6 feet of a receptacle. Doors and fireplaces don't count as part of the wall, but fixed-glass panels (like the nonsliding half of a glass slider) do. So starting at a door frame or corner, you must place a receptacle within 6 feet, and one at least every 12 feet thereafter.
Receptacles dedicated to one specific appliance, floor receptacles more than 18 inches away from the wall, and receptacles more than 5 1/2 feet from the floor do not count as required receptacles.
This is code minimum. For a premium job, I suggest going beyond code and adding one receptacle on each wall within 3 feet of a room corner, one on each side of any window 3 feet wide or wider, and one on each side of the bed (assuming the bed never moves).
Receptacle height is not specified as long as you don't exceed 5 1/2 feet from the floor. Receptacles can be installed above that height, but they are not counted as part of the required minimum.
And yes, receptacle outlets can be placed in the wood trim. I do this quite often in log cabins and renovations. However, be careful if you try to remove outlets from or place them in antique wood trim -- the wood is easy to damage and hard to replace.
No receptacle is required to be switch controlled. However, you are required to have switched lighting in most habitable rooms. This is usually done with an overhead light in the ceiling, but a floor lamp plugged into a switched receptacle also satisfies the requirement.